Your leaking thatched hut during the restoration of a pre-Enlightenment state.


Hello, my name is Judas Gutenberg and this is my blaag (pronounced as you would the vomit noise "hyroop-bleuach").


decay & ruin
Biosphere II
dead malls
Irving housing

got that wrong

appropriate tech
Arduino μcontrollers
Backwoods Home
Fractal antenna

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(nobody does!)

Like my brownhouse:
   teachers love freezing rain
Thursday, December 12 2002

It was a day of warmer temperatures and rain, some of which was freezing for a time this morning, in answer to the prayers of all local school teachers. It's awfully hard for weather to close schools in this hardy country, but there's nothing any school system can do in the face of freezing rain. Our friend Kristen Ma$$on is a school teacher, and she and her brother (who is also a school teacher) have a little chant they do whenever they listen to a particularly nasty weather report. It goes like this: "Freezing rain! Freezing rain!" Kristen tells me that school teachers love weather-induced holidays even more than their students do.
Taking advantage of today's unscheduled vacation, Kristen drove over to our house to visit us for a time. Meanwhile Gretchen and I were expecting the arrival of the carpet installers from Lowes, but they never came. This was just as well; Darren has yet to finish spackling the rooms and he hasn't even begun painting them. It would be so much nicer if the rooms were painted before the carpet gets installed.
We were still waiting for the carpet people when Gretchen and Kristen headed off for lupper at the Hurley Mountain Inn. I was famished as usual and would have loved to go but I had to sit around and wait in case the carpet people arrived. Gretchen had the idea that we could just leave a note for them but I thought that was a bad idea. I could easily imagine us returning to find that they'd ripped up all the carpet in the basement.

One complication of the second hydronic heating zone I've been working on is that Gretchen doesn't want a large radiator in the bathroom. She thinks it will clutter up the place and unpleasantly obscure the tile. But I'm concerned that if I don't put a large radiator in there, it won't be sufficiently warm. Today while I was at Lowes I found the solution: the Slant/Fin Kicker. It's a small VCR-sized unit that contains a fan and hydronic heating elements. You solder it into your hot water circuit as well as 120 volts of power and then a little fan will run every time it detects the presence of hydronic heat. Though compact, it puts out the equivalent of 10 or 12 feet of baseboard radiator. The funny thing was that when I was looking for a unit like this, I asked a Lowes employee if knew of any such device. He'd never heard of it and said that they probably don't exist. I knew he was wrong; there's already one installed in our kitchen. The downside of the Slant/Fin Kicker was the price: $179. But I bought it anyway.
Installing that beast proved to be a massive undertaking. First I had to select a suitable interior wall. I picked the wall near the location of the future sink, since it has a shelf-like soffit already behind it intruding into the middle "rec" room. Though it's possible for me to scrunch myself beneath this shelf, there's very little room to maneuver and undertake such tricky tasks as sweating pipes.
I did the wiring and most of the pipe soldering with the Slant/Fin unit pulled out of the wall. Since its hydronic connections were only for half inch pipe, I was able to use the same soft coiled copper pipe that had saved me so much soldering when I'd done the shower plumbing. Because I used this narrower-gauge pipe to run the final exposed leg connecting the return pipe in the rec room with the supply pipe behind the bathtub, I think I'll be able to bury it in the place where the floor meets the wall (once the tile installer starts doing her thing).
After I'd routed all the half inch pipe and installed the unit in the wall, it was time to attach it to the copper pipe I'd begun laying yesterday. The trickiest part of this process was the final set of solders that had to be made beneath the shelf-like soffit in a place where headroom was nonexistent, inflammable insulation paper was exposed, and I could barely see what I was doing because the joint to be soldered also lay behind a support pillar. After carefully positioning tiles as heat shields, I fired up the blowtorch and made the connections. It turns out that one barely needs to be able to reach or even see a pipe in order to successfully make the sweat connection. All you need to do is bathe it in heat for awhile and then just touch it with the solder. Mission accomplished. And then get the fuck out of there before you catch exposed insulation on fire.
When I was all done, I turned on the valve and ran back up the stairs to see if everything was okay. It wasn't - there was a pond of hot water forming on the floor in the bedroom. I ran down and turned off the water and then ran up to see what the problem had been. It turns out that I'd completely forgotten to solder one of the joints. I've never yet had a failure with a soldered connection in pipes smaller than an inch in diameter in cases where I actually remembered to solder them.
Fixing this joint proved incredibly difficult due to persistent water in the pipe, water that would not let me heat it to any hotter than the boiling point of water. Eventually I figured out that if I simply pushed down on nearby pipe, the water would flow away and I could do my business.
I stayed up until the wee hours again, working until I had the zone functioning. Then, with a sudden burst of energy, I began applying a coat of primer paint to part of the master bedroom, something that Darren was supposed to do today had he come.

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